“The discarded snapshots flew around his head in small circles, and then floated off in the wind, grazing by the tables in the shadowy park.”
I started The Lights of The Arno in the fall of 2013, and its final form is certainly different than its first. At the risk of making you weep for a story that will never be, I’ll tell you that it started off very differently. Simon, one of the major characters, began as a psychiatrist, as well as Maysom, the story’s protagonist. That changed once I took a class called The Writing Life in my last year of college.
What I had had before was an idea, but The Writing Life, a writing seminar for upperclassmen, turned it into a novel. New characters popped up, professions died, and characters began to take on distinct features and characteristics. I didn’t complete it until a year and a half after that, in 2015, but that was its birthplace.
Anyone who knows me knows that my great literary love is The Great Gatsby. In my humble opinion, there is nothing more America than that book. There are so many reasons to love it that it can be difficult choosing only one, whether it is its dynamic understanding of the changing politics of race, gender, and wealth in the 1920s, its lucid foretelling of the consequences of reckless financial endeavors by the rich and the powerful, its tackling of American myths of meritocracy…take your pick.
But the reason I mention The Great Gatsby is that my book and its theme is largely borne out of a deep love and appreciation for one of the most central themes in Gatsby…
Few topics interest me as much.
Where do memories go?
Why do we love the dead, or more importantly, how?
When is the right time to let go, or is it ever?
How heavily are we defined by the past?
Does it ever truly leave us?
These and many other questions were the kind that interested me while writing this book, questions about us, the “boats against the current, borne back, ceaselessly, into the past.” In those respects, this book is indebted to and informed by my love for Gatsby, and I hope it manages to also stumble upon something new in our search for the answer to how the past shapes us, molds us, and makes us who we are.
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